Selling online in the USA – Part ONE
Developing an international brand online is not for the faint hearted! Whist a company's UK website may be attracting visitors and ranking high on search engines, it does not follow that simply adding a sub domain or even a variant of the domain .com will have equal success.
In fact the key to developing a successful web presence in the USA takes a lot of planning and preparation, investment and expertise.
The USA is a huge market and a worthy marketplace for British companies to expand their footprint for a relatively small cost compared with other traditional routes.
However, one of the main barriers to building a successful presence selling online in the US is getting the right advice before embarking on this task. Here are some hints and tips before embarking on the journey.
Get the right advice first
Getting the right advice is not easy; there are lots of advisors, IP specialists, lawyers and accountants who are quite happy to take large fees, usually in part to pay their US partners. So our advice is, find businesses that have hands-on experience in selling online in the US.
Start the process well in advance
Start the process well in advance and consider all the factors that will impact on your online sales. Knowing your competiton, planning the sales approach, correct pricing, estimating investment and setting targets and ROI are where you start the project. Make sure you allocate the necessary resources. Choose an agency that can be your business partner, a company that has direct experience of selling online in the USA.
Online Card payments
You must consider important items like ensuring that you can take credit card payments in USD, and handle the types of payment cards your customers could use. Consider the type and and frequency of payments you will be taking, such as one off or recurring and check carefully the fees and charges deducted by secure payment facilities.
Think about how the payments will be paid into your accounts and how you deal with them. Remember the local business bank manager probably does not have a clue so you need a bank or manager who has experience in dealing with overseas currency and online business. Merchant account providers, often working in partnership with your bank, and secure payment handling gateways all take their cut between the customer paying and the money arriving in your account.
This is important to get your terms and conditions right: this will potentially save you a lot of money and agrivation down the line. Good terms and conditions that are enforcable in the country (and for the USA, states) you will be trading are essential, so use a legal firm that specialises in this area. There's one caveat: read the terms and don't just accept what your solicitor sends you. Remember T&Cs that can be relied on are important.
Don't forget tax implications. You don't want to be surprised by a tax bill down the line that wipes out your profits.
Intelectual Property and Domains
IP is important and can very expensive. There are very good IP specialists in New York who are relatively cheap and very professional. They understand the process and can help you get through it. Be wary of using local lawyers who claim they offer an IP service. They may offer the service, but you will need to engage someone who can give you expert advice.
Marketing and online research
Research is important; it will define how you approach the market and help you focus on the changes that need to be made for selling online in the USA. Pricing and value will play a key part in the USA as in the UK, and you need to become familiar with your competitors in the marketplace.
The website has to be an effective sales machine. It has to attract visitors, be credible and allow your target market to buy or order online easily. The beauty of online sales is that you can quickly see what works and what does not. The ability to monitor sales, visitor traffic and the source of sales leads will play an important part in the success of the venture, and the effectiveness of any channels that bring people to your site.
Selling in the USA requires determination, commitment and a willingness to adapt and change rapidly. It takes time and resources. It's not simply a matter of taking your UK website, sticking a US flag on it, and crossing your fingers.
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